For Dellapergola, Israel’s demographic future constitutes its central dilemma — and this predicament has only been sharpened by the results of the recent election. Essentially, Israel faces two choices: It can be a conglomerate of tribes struggling against each other, or an open society that respects cultural and religious differences, where each citizen participates in building the economy and shaping the state’s institutions.

Even more fundamentally, demographic trends mean that Israel can’t have it all. It can’t be a Jewish state, a democratic state, and a state in control of its whole historical land. It can only have two of its objectives at a time. Think of it this way: Israel can be Jewish and territorial — but not democratic. Or it can be democratic and territorial — but not Jewish. Or finally, it can be Jewish and democratic — but not territorial. This third choice is the one that can conceivably lead to a two-state solution.

The demographic imperative probably appeals to Obama, a rational thinker who understands the importance of acting in the present to avoid future catastrophes. He has at least once referred to the demographic realities in his speeches on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the president also knows from his own political choices that getting politicians to take risks now to prevent disasters and gain rewards later isn’t so easy.